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Of Leather and Velorians Parts 1-2

Written by murdough :: [Monday, 10 April 2006 13:10] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 02 April 2013 13:14]

Of Leather and Velorians Parts 1-2

 

by Andrew P. Murdough

 

 

Part 1

 

I started working at the Leather Limited the week before Thanksgiving 2001. Part of a relatively mid-sized chain of stores, this one in particular had been around for about a month prior. It had been one of many places where I had put in job applications at the time, my need for money after quitting my job waiting tables having increased substantially. I was pretty much desperate, willing to do just about anything for money. So when Leather Limited’s manager – a guy named Todd Eschler – called and asked if I wanted to come by for an interview, obviously I said yes. A few hours later, I was gainfully employed. At the time, I had no idea how much this seemingly mundane job would change my life and how I view our place in the universe.

 

My first day there was … interesting, to put it mildly. Arriving at the Mall of New Hampshire – where the store was located – about twenty minutes before the start of my 10 AM shift, I settled myself on the bench across from the locked gate of my new place of employment and waited. And waited. A few minutes past 10, a strikingly attractive young woman approached the store, taking notice of the fact that the store was still locked. She turned to my direction and approached me. At about my height, she had short brown hair and a pleasant face. She introduced herself as Kyle-anne, asking if I was the new guy. I nodded, saying that I was. She told me that she was the soon-to-be assistant manager of the store, though they had yet to issue her keys and that the guy with the keys was late, something that apparently happened often. Well to make a long story short, the guy in question – Rob – came in at around 12:30, unlocked the store, handed in his letter of resignation, gave Kyle-anne his keys, and left. Todd showed up shortly thereafter, and I was shown the ropes, so to speak. My shift ended at 2:00 that day, with the promise of less … stressful work experiences.

 

It was by the middle of my second week at Leather Limited when I met her. I had come in a few minutes late that morning due to traffic. The first thing I saw upon walking in was the astonishingly beautiful woman that was speaking to Todd. One thought came to mind as I approached them, my eyes on the woman, “Whoa”. She was easily an inch or two taller than my six feet, with hair that looked like it had been spun from gold. Clad in tight gray slacks and a red turtleneck sweater, it was obvious that she had a body to die for. But it were her eyes that caught my attention. They were of a bright shade of blue that I had only seen in photo manipulations on the Internet. I had always figured that no human could have eyes of that color. Yet here they were, clear as day. We shook hands, her grip surprisingly firm, and she introduced herself as Rasa, her soft, melodious voice carrying an accent that I placed as originating from somewhere in eastern Europe (she would later tell me that she hails from Lithuania).

 

The rest of the day, I helped train Rasa in store procedure. I admit, for a good portion of the time, all I could do was stare at her. And who could blame me? She was gorgeous. Yet, there was something about her. Something … different, though I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. That day in particular happened to be the day that we received a massive shipment from the distributor out in Ohio. And when I say massive, I mean massive, consisting of a stack of boxes higher than I am tall. They were also very heavy, several coats packed into each box. Needless to say, it was something that lowered my opinion of the corporate office, the way they sent merchandise. I could barely lift a single box, it was so heavy. To clarify, I try to keep myself in fairly good shape, so I’m hardly a weakling. Yet to my astonishment, Rasa wasn’t only carrying three at a time, she was doing it with seemingly no effort at all. In addition, the sleeves of her sweater seemed to look tight on her, as if her muscles were expanding while carrying the boxes.

 

Now, I consider myself to be a very logical person, not one given to flights of fancy. Yet after seeing this feat, one word seemed to keep sounding in my head, “Velorian, Velorian, Velorian.” But how could that be? I mean, Velorians were just works of fiction, no more real that Klingons or Daleks. Right? They couldn’t be real. And even if they were, what was one doing in Manchester, a city that had only three things of note about it: it was the hometown of Adam Sandler and the guy who created Archie Comics, and was the location of one of the main producers of Patriot missiles back during the Gulf War. Beyond that, Manchester was boring and mundane beyond words. That pretty much discounted the possibility of a Velorian being here in my mind. Then again, it was possible that Manchester was the perfect place to lie low in, given that nothing happened around here. But it didn’t matter. Velorians weren’t real.

 

**************

 

To call the next couple of weeks a little stressful would be like saying Marlon Brando is a halfway decent actor. The holiday shopping season was in full swing, and the store was packed. Customers were everywhere, begging for attention. Suffice to say I was at my wit’s end. On the other hand, I was also wishing that I was getting paid on commission, as the sales were racking up. Rasa seemed to be feeling the same way, the look on her face evident of that.

 

By the end of my shift on one such evening, all I wanted to do was to go home, climb into bed, and sleep. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be for awhile, since I had a four mile walk ahead of me, since my usual ride home was unavailable. Bidding the others at the store good evening, I left the mall and started towards home. Thinking back, I know what I did next was incredibly stupid, but at the time, I didn’t care. Out of my fatigue and desire to get home quickly, I had decided to take several short cuts. One of these was through an alleyway that was in an area that was contested between two of the city’s street gangs. Again, incredibly stupid.

 

I was halfway through the alley when I heard a noise behind me. Turning, I saw a couple of young men staring at me. They looked like they were barely past puberty, yet by their expressions, they had been hardened by life on the streets. That alone would have told me that I was in trouble, the various weapons they were carrying not helping any.

 

“You’re a long way from home white boy,” the apparent leader said, his accent telling me that English wasn’t his first language. His voice carried his contempt as he glared at me. Unconsciously, I backed off a little from the group, increasing the space between them and me. Stupid move on my part, since without another word, the punks came at me, brandishing bats, chains, and pipes.

 

“Help,” I managed to get out before they basically pig piled me, beating down with their weapons. For the next several seconds, all I knew was pain, the men hitting me repeatedly. I honestly thought that this was it. I was going to die. I kept thinking about all the things I wouldn’t be able to do or see. I also thought about my family, and how I wouldn’t be able to tell them that I loved them.

 

I was just about to lose consciousness when without warning, the blows stopped. I looked up through bloodshot eyes, seeing what looked like a pair of red boots in front of me. I looked further up, past a pair of long, tanned legs, past the red skirt, and past the blue shirt with the distinctive pentagonal S-shield. I looked up into the face of my savior. The face of an angel.

 

“Rasa?” I got out, before the world went black. The last thing I remembered was being lifted into a pair of strong arms, and the sense of the wind whipping past me. It felt like we were flying.

 

 

Part 2

 

I was flying. God damn it, I was flying. The whole city was laid out in front of me like some great big landscape. I could see everything, from Lake Massebesic to the north to the Bell Atlantic building downtown. I skimmed the surface of the Merrimack river, flying beneath the Notre Dame Bridge, ascending before I hit the dam by the armory. I was in complete control. I was free. But something was wrong, though I couldn’t figure out what. It was as if this wasn’t real. But how could that be? I remember distinctly waking up that morning and deciding to go for a little jaunt. At least I think I remember waking up. As these doubts filled my head, I began to lose altitude. I was falling, the street below me coming up fast. I closed my eyes, knowing that the impact would turn me into a stain on the asphalt. I would feel no pain …

 

************************

 

I awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright in bed. I sat there for about a split second before collapsing backwards, the pain in my ribs and head almost unbearable. Blinking, I looked around the small hospital room and saw for the first time the small group of people surrounding me. My grandparents – whom I consider to be my parents in every sense except the biological – were sitting on either side of my bed, their faces a mask of concern. Behind my grandfather was my kid brother, Joe. He too looked concern, his usual air of casual indifference gone. Linda Brown – my best friend for the past seven years – was standing by the window, looking at me like she wanted to wring my neck for scaring her. If not for the pain, I would have probably chuckled at that thought.

 

A nurse entered the room and checked my vitals before leaving again. Soon after, a doctor came in. He told me that I had been found outside in front of the Emergency Room unconscious with two broken ribs, a concussion, several bruises and a broken nose the night before. No one had seen who had dropped me off, nor what had caused my injuries. The last part I filled them in on, explaining how I had been jumped by a gang. They had attacked me, but beyond that, I didn’t remember what happened. I had refrained from telling the doctor about Rasa, given that he’d probably have a shrink speak to me. And maybe he’d be in the right. I mean, I had taken a couple blows to the head. It was possible that I had only imagined seeing Rasa in a Supergirl costume. But if I did, what had gotten those gangbangers off of me and then delivered me to the hospital?

 

Those questions continued to plague me after visiting hours ended and my family left. The doctor wanted to keep me for another night for observation, and I had no real reason to turn him down. Settling in a little, I flipped on the TV and switched to the news station.

 

“And repeating local news this evening,” the anchor began, “police officials are investigating the assault on five Manchester youths. The group, all of whom are minors, were found early this morning in an alley near the corner of Maple and Valley Street. They had suffered various broken bones – some nearly crushed – and one remains in serious yet stable condition at Catholic Medical Center. It should be noted that all five are alleged members of the Diablos, who are said to operate in Manchester’s inner city. Though the Manchester Police Department has not issued a statement, it is speculated that this assault is gang related.”

 

I turned off the TV, staring at the blank screen. “It must have been them,” I thought to myself. It had been the same alley as the one from last night, and the number of guys was the same. Someone had saved my life, and nearly killed the people who attacked me. My mind kept going back to what I had seen just before blacking out. Rasa, dressed in a Supergirl costume. Had it been real? Was Rasa something more than human? Was she a Velorian?

 

The rational half of my mind kept saying no. That it was impossible. That Velorians were merely the product of some writer’s overactive imagination. Aliens did not walk the Earth, or at least not around these parts. Nor did they dress up like comic book characters. It was simply ridiculous.

 

But on the other hand, there was a lot of evidence pointing at the fantastic. Yet it was all circumstantial. I couldn’t actually prove it, unless I went up to Rasa and asked her straight up. I wasn’t about to do that. For one thing, I could be wrong, and she’d think I was nuts. I valued the friendship she and I had developed, and I didn’t want to do anything to put that friendship at risk.

 

Out of all this, there was one certainty: I would have a lot to think about during my recovery.

 

************************

 

As it turned out, my recovery didn’t take as long as I feared it would. After a CAT scan proved that I had suffered no brain damage, I was released from the hospital. The doctor prescribed some pain medication for my ribs, and I would have to see him in a week for a follow-up. I returned home and after a day or so, I went back to work.

 

When I got to the store, Rasa was already there. I admit, it felt weird seeing here, after what may or may not have happened that night. To be honest, I still didn’t know for sure if it had been a hallucination. But whether it had happened or not was irrelevant at this point. I was determined to go back to the old routine. However, that would not happen.

 

For some reason, it seemed that Rasa had taken an interest in me. Wherever I went, I swore I could feel her eyes on me. On one occasion, we had made brief eye contact. What happened next, I can’t explain. It was as if her ice blue eyes … flashed … for lack of a better term.

 

Tachyon vision. The words sounded through my brain, the implications causing me to turn away out of reflexive modesty. I walked into the storage/break room and sat down on one of the folding chairs that had been set aside for such a purpose. I leaned back a little and stared up at the ceiling.

 

What the hell was happening to me? First I get mugged and have a hallucination of Rasa in a Halloween costume saving me. Now I’m imagining that she has Tachyon vision. Was I losing my mind? I didn't think I was. But then again, such perceptions were relative. Maybe it was part of some unconscious desire on my part. Maybe I wanted to get out of the mundanity of my life by believing in something incredible. In addition, I had been an avid reader of the Aurora Universe for the past two years or so, the stories of Velorians fascinating me to no end. Perhaps it was my desire for an escape that caused me to associate someone from my real life with a fantasy. Basic psychology.

 

My thoughts were interupted by sense of that I was not alone in the room. I turned in my chair and saw Rasa standing in the doorway. A small smile was on her face.

 

"Hey," I said, nodding slightly. She nodded in return, walking gracefully to the chair next to mine and sat down, crossing her legs.

 

"How are you?" she asked, her voice soft. "You really didn't say when you came in."

 

"I'm good," I replied, avoiding eye contact with her. "Been better, but then again, I've been a helluva lot worse."

 

I indicated the bruises on my face, "It looks worse than it really is. Granted, I won't be appearing on any magazine covers anytime soon, but c'est la vi."

 

That warranted the smile and giggle on her part that I had been shooting for, though she quickly regained her composure.

 

"I was worried about you," she said, placing her hand over mine. For a brief instant, our eyes made contact before she continued, "When I heard about what happened, I got scared."

 

"Scared?" I asked, knitting my brow in confusion.

 

"Yes," Rasa said. "I've lost people I care about before, and I didn't want to lose you too. You are my friend."

 

I nodded, "I consider you a friend too. But you don't have to worry. I don't plan on dying anytime soon. Got too much to live for."

 

She smiled, her eyes sparkling, "Good."

 

Then Rasa did something that took me completely off guard. She kissed me. It wasn't any major. Just a quick peck. But the mere fact she had done it surprised me. She pulled back, smiling at me in an odd way. Before I could respond, she stood and walked out of the break room, not looking back.

 

***************************

 

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and by the end of my shift, I was as anxious to get home as usual. At 10:00, the store closed and I opted to walk home again. I needed the time to be alone and to think.

 

I couldn’t help but keep thinking about that night. By that time, I had convinced myself that the vision of Rasa hadn’t been real and that the thugs had gotten bored with me. As for how I got to the hospital, a good Samaritan must have seen me and gave me a lift. That was it. Nothing fantastic had happened. Just the usual, run-of-the-mill bull that occurs in everyday life.

 

After what seemed like an eternity, I looked up and glanced around my surroundings. I was back in the alley where I had been attacked. Probably a subconscious move on my part. My feet acting almost of their own accord took me to a particular spot midway the length of the alley. I knelt down, looking at the spots of blood that graced the pavement. Somehow, I knew that this was my blood. I had come so close to dying, yet I managed to get through it. I knew that it wasn’t anything extraordinary. People cheated death all the time. But this was a first for me, and I hoped it’d be the last time.

 

My thoughts were interrupted by what sounded like a sonic boom, followed by feet hitting pavement. It came from right behind me. Quickly, I stood and spun around. The sight before me caused my eyes to widen and my jaw to drop open. Rasa was standing there, a small smile on her face. But that wasn’t what left me in awe. It was what she was wearing. Starting from the ground up, she wore a pair of bright red boots at came up to just under her knees. Her tan, shapely legs were bare, the length of them making her look even taller than her 6’2”. Above that was a red skirt that was barely long enough to be considered decent. Her royal blue top hugged her body like a second skin, every feminine curve revealed for everyone to see. Across her impressive chest was a red pentagonal shield, a stylized S emblazoned in the center. A voluminous cape that matched the shade of her skirt was tucked into the collar of her shirt, completing the ensemble.

 

“Hello Andrew,” she said, her voice soft and melodious, the accent that I now knew was anything but Lithuanian heavy in the air.

 

I stood there for a long moment, awestruck. Finally, I spoke two words, "Oh boy."

 

There's a quote that I heard once, though I don't remember where. It was somewhat profound in my view and I used it as my senior quote back in high school. The quote was, "There are moments in your life that make you. That set the course of who you're gonna be. Sometimes they're little, subtle moments. Sometimes … they're not." For me, this was one of those moments. In my heart I knew that from this point onward, my life would change. Whether that change would be for the better or for the worse, I had no clue at the time. But my life would change.

 

You'll see what I mean.

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